Spangled Drongo. Pic: JJ Harrison @

There is a lot to love about the Spangled Drongo. For starters the name.

My Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary has the adjective “Spangled” derived from Spangle the noun & verb: “1 a small thin piece of glittering material esp. used in quantity to ornament a dress etc.; a sequin. 2 a small sparkling object. 3 (in full spangle gall) a spongy excrescence on oak leaves.”

Drongo” is even better and refers to “1 any black bird of the family Dicruridae, native to India Africa and Australia, having a long forked tail.” And of course the Australian colloquial “2 a fool; a simpleton. [Malagasy; sense 2 probably from Drongo an unsuccessful racehorse of the 1920s]”.

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Spangled Drongo at the Bat's Wing Coral Tree flowers

Put Spangled and Drongo together and you’ve really got a name that gives more than the sum of its parts and that rolls off the tongue with a laughing question.

For mine I also like very much that they are a part of the visual and aural landscape where I live in the Darwin suburbs.

Most mornings when I walk to the bus I can see one or both of a pair hawking for breakfast over the passing traffic. This morning I had a lay-in on a cool-almost-dry-season morning listening to one chatter senselessly outside my window for an hour or so.

Now it would give a call like a half-stifled sneeze, then some scolding raucous chatter reminiscent of a strangled cat followed by what sounds like a wire being tunelessly plucked and stretched.

A fascinating – though not very harmonious – part of the Darwin dawn chorus.

Spangled Drongo - shining black plumage and a deadly red eye ...

I caught up with this bird a few years ago at a Bat’s Wing Coral Tree Erythrina verspertilio that flowers in the late dry season. You can see the pollen from the flowers on the Drongo’s beak.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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